Rastetter Must Resign From Board of Regents

Emails indicate Rastetter may have used his appointed public position to pursue a personal agenda

Des Moines, Iowa –  Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members demand Bruce Rastetter resign from his position on the Iowa Board of Regents immediately.  The public outcry comes after the  Associated Press reported on emails that showed Rastetter may have abused his #2 position on the board by pushing for a partnership between Iowa State University and his agribusiness corporation, AgriSol Energy.  The project involved an attempted land-grab in Tanzania that would have displaced thousands of refugee farmers.

Iowa CCI members say they will consider a formal conflict of interest ethics complaint if Rastetter does not resign.

“This is the perfect example of what happens when Governor Branstad appoints a fox to run the henhouse,” said Ross Grooters, a CCI member from Pleasant Hill.  “Iowans shouldn’t have to wonder about who he was representing during these discussions – the Board of Regents or AgriSol.”

“Even the appearance of a conflict of interest is grounds for a resignation,” Grooters said.  “This looks pretty bad.  Rastetter needs to go because it looks like he used his position on the Board of Regents to pursue his own personal financial gain instead of pursuing the public interest and the common good as he was charged to do.”

The emails obtained by the Associated Press show that Rastetter actively participated in discussions about how Iowa State University could partner with AgriSol for a land-grab project in Tanzania.  The emails included discussions about an ISU proposal asking AgriSol for a 5-year funding commitment to the university in exchange for university assistance, at roughly the same time AgriSol approached ISU about the possibilities of securing a joint grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that both entities could financially benefit from.

Last July, Iowa State came under intense public scrutiny for its involvement in the AgriSol land-grab project in Tanzania.  But ISU officials continued to discuss a joint ISU/AgriSol partnership with Rastetter for weeks afterwards despite their acknowledgement that the university’s reputation had suffered because of the controversy.

Bruce Rastetter was Governor Terry Branstad´s top individual donor during the governor’s re-election campaign, with a 2010 year to date gift totaling $162,712, according to the National Institute for Money in State Politics. Rastetter also provided seed money for the shadowy American Future Fund that poured millions of secret dollars into smear campaigns against progressive Democrats across the country in 2010.  Rastetter is a venture capitalist who founded the now bankrupt Heartland Pork and later moved from factory farms into ethanol.

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More than 70 people packed a Story County Conservation Board Meeting Monday night to stand up for clean air and water and speak out against a proposed factory farm by Rockstar LLC owner Kyle Mens near Hickory Grove Park Lake.  The conservation board passed a resolution opposing factory farms near county parks, and called on all citizens and levels of government to push for local control over factory farm zoning.

Nearly 40 people also testified at a Story County Board of Supervisors public hearing Tuesday morning.   CCI members hand-delivered more than 500 petitions by local residents and park users opposing Kyle Mens’ plan to build a corporate factory farm near Hickory Grove Park Lake.  The Supervisors will put the same resolution on their agenda for debate in two weeks.

“The Story County Board of Supervisors should follow the lead of the county’s conservation board and go on record with a formal resolution opposing Kyle Mens’ plan to build a factory farm near Hickory Grove Park and Lake,” said Evan Burger, a CCI member from Huxley.

A planning meeting organized by CCI members at Hickory Grove Park Saturday was attended by more than 30 local residents and neighbors, as well as frequent park users.

Mens and his company Rockstar LLC hit a hurdle last Friday when Maschoff Pork of Illinois – the company that would have owned the hogs – announced it was pulling out of the deal.  Mens withdrew his Manure Management Plan Friday but said he intends to refile as soon as he finds another hog corporation to partner with.

Learn more

  • See the map illustrating the influx of new/expanding factory farms this spring and what CCI members are doing to fight back.

Take Action

Right now, while hundreds of families are worried about their quality of life, property values and environmental impact, the Assoc. of Business and Industry is trying to formalize a rule that would force the Iowa DNR to permanently take a “hands off approach” to factory farms.

Join hundreds of Iowans in telling the Iowa DNR to crack down on factory farms and say no to weakened enforcement.

  • Join as an Iowa CCI member today or chip in $10 to support our organizing on this issue.
  • Sign up for our E-Mail Action list to get the latest updates

 

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Proposed Union County hog operations voted down

June 12, 2012 By Dar Danielson  http://www.radioiowa.com/2012/06/12/proposed-union-county-hog-operations-voted-down/

The group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (C-C-I) is celebrating a victory in what it calls an escalating fight against requests to build large-scale livestock operations in the state. The Union County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Monday to recommend that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources deny permits for two proposed 5,000 head hog farms.

C-C-I state policy director, Adam Mason, says the Union County vote is one step toward keeping the operations from being built. “Now that the Union County supervisors have recommended denial of this site, the D.N.R. will have 30 days to take their recommendation into consideration, review the factory farm construction permit and master matrix, and make their final decision. For us here at C-C-I, we’ll monitor that process, our members in Union County will monitor that process,” Mason says.

In the larger picture, Mason says they get calls daily about proposed livestock operations. He says the group has recently gotten the plans changed for facilities in Dallas, Floyd, Jefferson, and Story counties. There are ongoing fights against facilities in Poweshiek, Union, and Wright counties.

“What we look for here at C-C-I is a deep sense of commitment amongst the community, basically of the community coming together in opposition to this,” Mason explains. “If one person calls C-C-I, we don’t just automatically go out and meet with folks, there has to be a significant number of community members who want to do something about this. What we can do is go out and meet with folks and let them know what has worked in the past to stand up for family farmers and fight back against factory farms.”

The vote by the supervisors does not guarantee the D.N.R. will follow its recommendation. “County supervisors and local folks don’t really have much of a say, and that’s something the legislature did back in 2002 when they created the master matrix. That provides public input, but doesn’t give those local folks or the county supervisors final authority, which we would call local control,” Mason says.

He says the supervisors’ vote is a positive for residents trying to keep the facilities from being built. Mason says,”But what that means for folks in Union County today is the D.N.R. staff will look at this permit application a little bit stronger than they would. But what is comes down to is the D.N.R. is underfunded and understaffed as well.”

Mason says the dramatic increase in requests to build large livestock facilities is due to higher prices for hogs and the “lax regulatory environment of the Branstad administration.” Governor Branstad’s spokesman responded with this statement:

“Agriculture is the strength behind Iowa’s economic success, and we welcome job-creating pork producers to locate in our state. Governor Branstad believes we must safeguard our environment with commonsense regulations. The regulatory environment remains the same as when Governor Branstad took office, but with the skyrocketing pork prices, it should come as no surprise that producers would expand their operations. Governor Branstad will continue his efforts for cleaner air and water, and believes Iowa’s laws should be enforced.”

 

Learn more

  • See the map illustrating the influx of new/expanding factory farms this spring and what CCI members are doing to fight back.

Take Action

Right now, while hundreds of families are worried about their quality of live, property values and environmental impact, the Assoc. of Business and Industry is trying to formalize a rule that would force the Iowa DNR to permanently take a “hands off approach” to factory farms.
  • Join as an Iowa CCI member today or chip in $10 to support our organizing on this issue.
  • Sign up for our E-Mail Action list to get the latest updates

 

Click LIKE or TWEET to share this great news story with your networks.

Good News!

 

CCI members in Union County have been fighting hard against a wave of factory farm construction hitting their communities, and this morning in Creston they had a big win. The Board of Supervisors, under community pressure led by CCI members, voted 5-0 to recommend denial of Mike Taylor’s proposal to build two Cargill-backed 5,000-head sites!

The DNR now has thirty days to review the application, but the Supervisors’ decision was a crucial step in getting this construction stopped. And it all happened because of the hard work of CCI members! This is yet another reminder that ordinary Iowans can fight back and win against the statewide explosion of corporate factory farm construction.

 

Join the Fight!

If you want to see more wins like Union County all across the state, there are four things you can do right now to help:

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Corporate lobby group’s proposed rule would weaken enforcement of environmental laws

 

Today, nearly 40 members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) delivered more than 600 public comments to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today demanding the DNR drop a rulemaking petition that would weaken enforcement of clean water laws and signal to the factory farm industry that the DNR is taking a “hands-off” approach to compliance.

A big-moneyed corporate interest group, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI), has petitioned DNR to pass a new rule that will weaken the DNR’s ability to enforce Iowa law against factory farm polluters.  The proposed rule will make it more difficult for everyday people to ensure strong and effective public oversight of factory farm polluters in the future by formally codifying already lax enforcement policies in writing, even if priorities shift in two years with a new governor and a new DNR director.

“The proposed rule basically tells factory farm operators that they will not be fined or penalized for a manure spill, fish kill, or other environmental violation, which could lead to more risk-taking, more manure spills and, ultimately, more water pollution,” said CCI member Barb Kalbach, a 4th generation family farmer from Dexter.  “We need strong deterrents if we are serious about cleaning up our polluted watersheds and the DNR absolutely must not kowtow to the influence of big ag money if they want to preserve what little credibility they have left with everyday Iowans.”

CCI members also met with ABI president Mike Ralston earlier today and pushed him to withdraw the proposal.

Iowa has more than 572 polluted waterways, and there have been more than 800 manure spills in the last 15 years, according to DNR and CCI records.  A 2007 study by the Iowa Policy Project stated that factory farm manure “may be the largest agricultural polluter of Iowa’s streams and lakes”.

 

Take action

Join hundreds of fellow Iowans in telling the DNR to crack down on factory farms and say NO to the ABI’s proposed “hands off” rule. Take action here: http://j.mp/TelltheDNR

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  • This rule comes as Iowans are battling one of the biggest surges in new and expanding factory farm construction in years. Read the latest news and actions on our factory farm organizing.

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Branstad has packed DNR and EPC with factory farm industry insiders

 

It’s official. Gov. Branstad has appointed former House Majority Leader Chuck Gipp (R-Decorah) as director of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

This is only the latest step in Branstad’s corporate agenda to stack the decks of state government with factory farm industry insiders hostile to strong and effective public oversight of the environment.

The shakeup at the DNR comes as rural Iowans are experiencing the largest surge in factory farm construction across the state in the past five years alone, a serious threat to the long-term health of our air, land and water.

Chuck Gipp’s never met a factory farm bill he didn’t like,” said Larry Ginter, an independent family farmer and CCI member from Rhodes, Iowa. “Now he’s going to be the #1 guy at an agency he spent his entire legislative career trying to deregulate and dismantle.

In 2001, CCI members labeled Gipp one of the “Factory Farm Four” because of his long voting record to reduce and rollback citizen input and public oversight over the corporate factory farm industry.

  • In 1995, Gipp voted for H.F. 519 – a bill signed into law by then-governor Branstad that essentially rolled out the welcome mat for factory farm expansion in Iowa.
  • In 1997 and 1998, Gipp voted to outlaw local control ordinances and centralize decision-making authority with the state, expand the ability of corporations to purchase farmland and raise livestock, and grant immunity from fines and penalties to documented polluters.
  • In 2003, Gipp voted to rollback clean air rules, strip the DNR of its power to write ambient air quality standards, strengthen nuisance lawsuit protections for corporations, and expand the industry’s ability to build factory farms in environmentally-sensitive areas like flood plains and on karst soil.
  • In 2004, Gipp voted to legalize factory farm air pollution by creating a weak regulatory framework for air quality standards.
  • In 2005, Gipp voted to undermine law enforcement and corporate accountability by making it harder to refer habitual factory farm polluters to the Attorney General, and obstruct DNR rulemaking by making it easier for big-moneyed corporations to stop or stall rulemaking.
  • In 2006, Gipp voted to gut DNR’s authority to deny or modify a factory farm construction permit or manure management plan, empower the state legislature to stop or stall executive branch rulemaking, weaken manure management laws, and discourage and penalize citizen input by silencing everyday people who speak out against factory farm pollution.
  • In 2008, Gipp voted for a $23 million taxpayer-funded odor study that would stall action on mandatory and enforceable clean air standards and force Iowa citizens to foot the bill.

Iowa CCI members say Branstad’s political appointments to the DNR, Environmental Protection Commission (EPC), and Board of Regents – including Chuck Gipp, but also retiring director Roger Lande, Bill Ehm, and Bruce and Brent Rastetter – clearly demonstrate just how beholden Branstad is to the corporate ag interests that bankrolled his campaign for governor.

Branstad has packed the Board of Regents, the DNR, and the EPC with people who have made careers out of dismantling government of, by, and for the people and creating government of, by, and for the corporations,” Ginter said. “These kind of appointments clearly expose the corporate control of our democracy and highlights the need for the kind of systemic changes that Iowa CCI members continue to fight for.

 

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